Published October 02, 2012
Port of Olympia officials express frustration over shoreline planMATT BATCHELDOR
A Port of Olympia representative told the Olympia City Council on Tuesday that “it was clear that we weren’t listened to” by the city’s planning commission when it drafted a shoreline plan that would severely restrict development at the port. Mike Reid, the port’s senior manager for business development, objected to a proposal that would allow no new commercial development within 100 feet of the port’s shoreline along all the north and most of the east side of the port peninsula. The plan would cut through the port’s plans to expand the Swantown Marina on East Bay with a boater’s village with marine-related shops and perhaps a restaurant. “I think it’s a knife in the heart of local businesses and the Olympia Yacht Club,” said Port Commissioner George Barner. The planning commission’s plan also would allow no new commercial development within 50 feet of the Budd Inlet shoreline on the isthmus, affecting the yacht club as well as Bayview Thriftway and the Oyster House. And on West Bay, no new commercial development would be allowed within 50 feet of the shoreline for some uses, 100 feet for others. No new industrial uses would be allowed. Affected property owners include Hardel Mutual Plywood Corp., Dunlap Towing Co. and the West Bay Marina. Proponents of the plan say it would improve public access to the shoreline and protect against sea-level rise. Opponents characterize it as a taking of private property. A raft of port officials spoke against the plan Tuesday, including commissioners Bill McGregor and Jeff Davis and Executive Director Ed Galligan. It was the council’s third study session on the topic; it previously heard from the state Department of Ecology, which requires the plan be updated, and from neighborhood and business interests. Port officials characterize it as limiting what a public government, the port, can do on its property, which is meant to serve all of Thurston County, not just Olympia. Reid said the state shoreline act gives ports priority on using waterfronts. He said the port had asked for a Port Industrial Maritime designation. Instead, the planning commission designated part of it Urban Conservancy category, in which restoration of natural and open space is the top priority. Timothy Harris, an attorney for the port, said that ports in Anacortes, Port Townsend and Vancouver, Wash., have setbacks ranging from zero to 30 feet. Davis said the planning commission’s proposal would have “tremendous impacts” on the port. “I think that we are more than a special interest,” he said. “We’re a stakeholder in this.” Barner mentioned the port is in talks with a five-star hotelier about a hotel on State Avenue. The port is trying to be a partner in bringing economic development, he said. City Council members asked some technical questions but didn’t state opinions on the planning commission’s draft plan. They also made no decisions. The council must approve the plan but might delay a vote until March, according to a proposed city staff schedule. The council also heard from the state Department of Enterprise Services, Department of Natural Resources and LOTT Clean Water Alliance. The Squaxin Island Tribe was invited but did not give a presentation. Most of the discussion centered on the port’s concerns. Mayor Stephen Buxbaum expressed concern about the Moxlie Creek area. He said Percival Landing should be a model for how the shoreline should look, with a soft edge. He asked that its design elements be used elsewhere on the port’s shoreline. “Mayor, we’d be delighted to work with the city on seeing that come to fruition,” said Galligan, the port’s executive director.